Knee + Leg

Arthritis in the Knee

Overview

Arthritis involves joint inflammation and thinning of the cartilage on the joint surface. The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis, due to wear and tear or pervious injury. Other forms of arthritis include inflammatory arthritis (immune joint destruction) such as as rheumatoid arthritis.

The knee joint includes the end of the femur (thigh bone), top of the tibia (shin bone), and patella (kneecap) which rests in front of the femur. Arthritis may be asymptomatic in the early stages. It can also cause intermittent flares of pain. It generally will progress over many years to become bone and bone with swelling and knee deformity.

There are many factors that contribute to the development of arthritis. Your genes play a role and many patients note a family history. An injury of the joint space may cause the arthritis to advance more quickly. Weight gain can also play a role. Many patient note improvements in pain after even a small weight loss.

Diagnosis

Your doctor will recommend x-rays to determine the extent of arthritis.

Treatment Options

As with other arthritic conditions, initial treatment of arthritis of the knee is nonsurgical. Your doctor may recommend making some lifestyle modifications to protect your knee joint and slow the progress of arthritis. Low impact activities such as walking, biking, and swimming are encouraged. Physical therapy may be recommended to help increase range of motion and flexibility as well as help strengthen the muscles in your leg.

There are several types of medications that are useful in treating arthritis of the knee. Because people respond differently to medications, your doctor will work closely with you to determine the medications and dosages that are safe and effective for you. Over-the-counter medications, cortisone injections, viscosupplementation (a lubricating injection) as well as alternative therapies may be recommended.

If your pain from arthritis limits your lifestyle and is not relieved with nonsurgical treatment, your doctor may recommend surgery. As with all surgeries, there are some risks and possible complications with different knee procedures. Your doctor will discuss the possible complications with you before your operation.

Total Knee Replacement

A total knee replacement is an joint surgery that resurfaces an arthritic knee joint with a metal, plastic, or ceramic replacement part.

Learn more about a total knee replacement.

Osteotomy

Either the tibia (shinbone) or femur (thighbone) is cut and then reshaped to relieve pressure on the knee joint. Knee osteotomy is used when you have early-stage osteoarthritis that has damaged just one side of the knee joint. By shifting your weight off the damaged side of the joint, an osteotomy can relieve pain and significantly improve function in your arthritic knee.

Learn more about an osteotomy.

Partial Knee Replacement

Only part of the knee joint is replaced. The knee joint is made up of three compartments which lay between the femur and tibia (i.e. the long bones of the leg): the patellofemoral, medial, and lateral compartments. Occasionally, only one of these compartments wears out, usually the medial one. If you have symptoms and X-ray findings suggestive of this, then you may be suitable for this procedure.

Learn more about unicompartmental knee replacement.

Learn more about patellofemoral replacement.

Revision Knee Replacement

This means that part or all of your previous knee replacement needs to be revised. This operation varies from very minor adjustments to massive operations replacing all surfaces with new implants.

Physical Therapy

Your doctor will recommend physical therapy to help you regain strength in your knee and to restore range of motion. Depending upon your procedure, you may need to use ambulatory aid such as a walker or crutches to get around initially.

Eau Claire Area Locations

Chippewa Valley Orthopedics & Sports Medicine - Altoona

Chippewa Valley Orthopedics & Sports Medicine - Chippewa Falls

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Outreach Locations

Cumberland Memorial Hospital

Prevea Rice Lake Health Center

Chippewa Valley Hospital

Hayward Area Memorial Hospital

Ascension Our Lady of Victory Hospital

Indianhead Medical Center

Black River Memorial Hospital

Krohn Clinic

Diagnostic Radiology Associates